Highlights From The Winner Of The Pacific Coast Championship
by Richie Balta
The Pacific Coast Championship was held in Central California at Cambria beach. Eighty competitive divers from along the whole Coast of California showed up to compete. It was by far the biggest PCC in the history of this meet.
Ryan Moore and Scott Blumer called me two months ago asking if I would be the third diver on their team. With these two as my teammates, I couldn’t say no so it was on! The PCC is a no scout meet, so all the energy and preparation you save by not scouting is more than used up on the actual competition day. This format will definitely make you work twice as hard as any other competition. You end up covering more than double the amount of ground you would cover in a normal meet.
I have limited experience diving in this part of the state, so doing my homework on fish was crucial. Furthermore, I didn’t have the proper length guns for the fish in this area so, at the last minute, I had to get new guns. Anyone with any diving experience knows the last thing you want to do before an important meet is to use gear you are not familiar with. I was taking a big gamble. A few days before, I asked Petros Charalambos Yiannikouros at Spearamerica to loan me couple of his personal guns which he used in previous PCC meets. I was armed with his 75cm Pathos Laser.
The day before the meet, me, my teammates and a few of our buddies went out for a quick dive in the designated warm up zone to get some water time, test our gear and get everything dialed in and ready. It was the moment of truth to see if my gear and guns were on track. We paddled out to the nearest point on our kayaks and jumped in. Visibility was really bad. I made quick work and did what I needed to do. First, I needed to see if my new Salvimar NAT 5 mil. wetsuit was warm enough to wear in the colder water that these areas are known. With little time in the water, I knew that the suit was perfect and that it would be perfect to wear throughout the whole day of the competition. Now it was time to test Petros Pathos 75. First fish I see I aimed, shot and watched as the shaft go right through for the stone shot and the fish rolled upside down. I said well that might have been luck:). Second and third shot I had same results. Wow! I couldn’t be any happier with how my gear preformed. I am ready for tomorrow, I said to myself as I swam to my kayak, paddled back to the beach and called it a day.
On the day of the meet, the clock hit its mark and all the divers took off on their kayaks through the surf and in the direction of their spots. Me and my teammates decided to head North. After about 20 minutes of traveling, I tied my kayak to the kelp and slipped into the water. Literally, in my first dive, I came around a bolder and watched this female sheepshead bolt off from behind. Without hesitation, I instinctively drew my gun and fired. I saw my shaft connect mid body and my first fish was on. From there, I just covered a lot of ground, a lot of it being dead zone. I swam so far that I couldn’t even see my kayak. I was picking up a fish here and a fish there. At this point, I was a couple hours into the meet and decided that I need to start heading back towards my kayak. Eventually, when I made it back, I looked up and there was Scotty on his kayak about 100 yards away. Right away, he called me over. He told me that Ryan had found a nice bolder that held fish and that they both had been working it for couple hours. Even though the bolder was worked for a while, I didn’t waste any time jumping in and going to work. I spent the rest of my time in that same spot and was able to get the rest of the fish I needed using up every minute of water time. Time was up so I jumped on my kayak and raced to the beach with 5 minutes to spare.
At that point I was very happy with my catch. I knew I’d done well, but with 80 other competitors, you never really know until the end.
Weigh-in time came around and I watched as the catches were being recorded. There were many nice catches, some of which were just plain impressive. I wasn’t sure how my catch was going to stand against the couple of the top guys catches that had already weighed in. Especially Charlie Le Kemp’s catch; it almost looked flat out unbeatable. My turn was up and I started placing my fish on the scale. By the time I put my last fish on, the weight was shouted: “90.60 pounds with 20 fish for a total of 110.60 points” putting me at the top of the score board earning me first place individual AND making me the new Pacific Coast Champion. I couldn’t believe it! It took a second to sink in then my teammates and I just bear hugged and jumped up and down in celebration. Furthermore, after my teammates weighed in their impressive catches, my score along with theirs earned us the first place team championship. It was all like a dream and could not have gone any better. We spent the rest of the night celebrating amongst all our friends, laughing and riding the high we were on. Truly one of the best weekends of my life.
Super special thanks to Ryan and Scotty, as they were both more than everything you can ask for in a teammate and showed the true spirit in team work. I truly could not have done it without them and super proud to be part of the team with them.
Thanks to Petros at Spearamerica and Maverick America who were there to provide me with all the gear I needed last minute and more so for gear that performed better than I could have ever asked for. That is super rare. I truly have a new personal love to my pathos guns.
Thanks to Surffur for never failing to keep me warm any place in the world at any time. It’s truly a game changer.
I want to thank Scotty, Ryan, Austin for their amazing work in putting a monster event like this on. Job well done is an understatement. Also to our amazing sponsors that made this meet on a level of its own. Talking about setting the bar.
Last but not least Thanks to Austin and Ryan on the amazing moments they captured with their professional photography skills. Priceless.
Can’t wait to dive with my teammates on the next big event.).
(And the story continues the next day at some Southern California paddies. Full story HERE on the Spearing Forum. This guy is bananas.)